What Qualifies You for Alimony in California?

Are you facing a divorce and wondering if you qualify for alimony? This is a question a lot of people ponder about – many factors will influence spousal support in the state of California. 

What qualifies you for alimony in the state of California? Figuring out alimony can get complicated. There are 4 key elements to qualifying for alimony that you will need to understand. These are: 

  • The Length of Your Marriage
  • Marital Standard of Living
  • Debts & Assets
  • Ability to Become Employed

When it comes to divorce and money, it can be overwhelming, stressful, and emotional. In this article, we will go over a few key elements the State of California will look at to see if you or your spouse will qualify for alimony.  

1. Length of Your Marriage

If you or someone you know is currently going through a divorce, then you may have heard some legal terms such as pendente lite, alimony, and long-term spousal support. Understanding these legal terms will help you understand how the length of your marriage will impact a spousal support order.

Do not forget that you and your soon-to-be ex-partner can agree to a spousal support agreement without the court’s help. This would be the best possible outcome to have instead of going through the courts. 

Once the length of your marriage has been determined, there are 5 different types of alimony you can seek.

  1. Temporary Alimony
  2. Rehabilitative Alimony
  3. Permanent Alimony
  4. Reimbursement Alimony
  5. Lump-Sum Alimony

2. Marital Standard of Living

The marital standard of living refers to the lifestyle that both parties enjoyed during the duration of their marriage. This standard of living will include considerations such as:

  • How often did the couple eat out?
  • Where the couple usually shopped for clothing
  • How much did the couple spend on their housing situation?
  • How big is the marital house? 
  • Where was the marital house located? 
  • What types of schools did the children go to? 
  • Where and how often did the couple go on vacations?

After the divorce, it is typically not feasible for both spouses to maintain the same lifestyle as they once enjoyed together. 

For example, in re Marriage of Smith, this case describes the marital standard of living within your means. This case displayed that if both parties were spending more than the income they were taking each month, this should not be a deciding factor in what the court will determine as the marital standard of living. The court will then have to look at the actual income earned rather than the amount spent. 

3. Debts & Assets

A community property state, such as California, will look at all assets and debts obtained during the duration of the marriage. If you and your spouse have accumulated assets, such as houses, cars, boats, and the like, this will all get considered during the spousal support process. However, your debts and assets that you’ve obtained before you got married will be separate.

The one thing that the court will never take into account with spousal support is your student loans. It does not matter when you took the student loans out. In the court’s eyes, student loans are considered separate property. 

But, the courts can and will consider any bank accounts that you both shared, even if one name is on the account. As long as the other party would deposit their money into it, it becomes a community property at that point. The same goes for a retirement account. 

What you should know is that each party will have an equal share of all assets. The court will divide the assets equally between both parties. However, the parties can agree to do an unequal division if they want. 

When it comes to marital debt, the courts will not get involved. The debt will have to get settled between the two parties. The courts will not make a binding contract for any debt that stemmed from the marriage. For instance, if one party says they will pay all of the marital debt but does not pay them, the creditors can still come after both of you for the total amount. 

4. Ability to Become Employed

In situations where the other party is unemployed, it is common for the supporting party to ask for the other party to get put under a work efforts order along with a request for the Gavron warning, which is under Family Code 4332(b) states: 

“In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, the court shall make specific factual findings concerning the standard of living during the marriage, and, at the request of either party, the court shall make appropriate factual determinations concerning other circumstances.”

When filing for a spousal support order, the court will advise the other party to make reasonable efforts to help them support themselves during this time. The court will also take into account all circumstances under Family Code 4320.

But also should remember that spousal support can last for only half of the length of their marriage if the marriage did not last longer than 10 years. However, if your marriage lasted longer than 10 years, there is no limit on how long the spousal support order can stay in place. This information will give you an idea of how long you may be paying for the other party.

Before You Respond or File– Let’s Talk

Before you decide to file or respond, you have a lot to think about. It can get overwhelming trying to figure out how to respond to your partners’ paperwork or figure what paperwork to file first. 

As long as you know any of these 4 qualifications to get spousal support, you are already ahead of the game. Divorcing is not pretty or easy, but understanding the law will help make it a more bearable time. 

At Azemika & Azemika, we know how spousal support works here in California because we specialize in California family law. We offer legal representation and advice based on understanding, trust, and integrity. Contact us today for your free legal consultation. 

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